Flying While Brown: One Teen’s Run-ins with the TSA

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Photo Credit: Danjo Paluska via Flickr

The TSA is supposed to make you feel safer when you fly. But for an Indian-American like me, it’s quite the opposite.

I travel nearly every other weekend for debate. While I’m watching my teammates breeze through TSA, I’m usually unpacking my luggage to be searched.

Since I’ve gotten to know airport security intimately. I’ve looked into the list of “suspicious behaviors” TSA officers watch for. Things like yawning, blinking, and even fidgeting can be flagged. But I think–for me–it boils down to “looking like a terrorist.”

Recently, one TSA agent was glaring at me from behind the full body scanner. The light turned green. I thought I was good to go. But the officer took me aside and patted me down forcefully. I kept my mouth shut, even though I was furious.

It’s hard to have this happen in front of my classmates. In school, at least in theory, we’re treated equally. But every time I walk through security, it doesn’t matter that I’m 16 or traveling with my debate team. I’m reminded of the prejudice surrounding my appearance and it follows me everywhere I go.

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